Christ - All, And In All
by T. Austin-Sparks
"And He is the Head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.", (Colossians 1:18).
"Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.", (Colossians 3:11).
There has been a great deal done in recent days to bring the greater magnitudes of the universe within the intelligence of the ordinary man and woman. This means that many people are interested in the explanation of the universe, and, no doubt in particular, of the course of this earth and of the creation and history of man; but we believe that we have the positive and final answer to the inquiry. For us there is but one definite and conclusive explanation of the universe, and that explanation is a Person - the Lord Jesus Christ, with all that is eternally related to Him. However much we read and study we shall never get the explanation of the universe, in whole or in part, until we come to see the place of the Lord Jesus in the eternal appointment of God. The simple but all-embracing words, "Christ is all, and in all" sum up the whole matter from eternity, through all stages of time, unto eternity. Firstly, then, that "Christ is all, and in all" is:
1. The Explanation Of The Creation Itself
This letter to the Colossians makes that very statement in other words. It tells us that "In Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (hold together)" (1:17). That is a comprehensive statement, and it clearly shows that Christ being all, and in all, is the explanation of the whole creation. Why were all things created? Why did God through Him bring the universe into being? Why does this great universal system exist and continue? What is the explanation of the world? The answer is that Christ may be all, and in all.
The intention in the heart of God in bringing this universe into existence was that, ultimately, the whole creation should display the glory and supremacy of His Son, Jesus Christ; and this one little fragment, "and in Him all things hold together", says quite clearly that but for the Lord Jesus Christ the whole universe would disintegrate, fall apart; it would be without its uniting factor; it would cease to have a reason for being maintained as a complete and concrete whole. Its holding together, its failure to disintegrate and break up, is because of this: God has determined that the Lord Jesus shall be the centre, the governing centre, of this whole universe, and He - God's Son - is the explanation of creation. But for Him, there never would have been a creation. Take Him out, and creation loses its purpose and its object, and need not go on any longer. "Christ is all, and in all", was the thought, the ruling thought, in the mind of God in the creation of the universe.
That may leave you cold in some measure and not get you very far, but I venture to think that what I am now going to say will get you a little further and warm your hearts; for the prospect is this, that when God has things as in eternity past He determined to have them - and He is going to have them so - every atom of this whole universe will display the glory of Jesus Christ. You will not be able to look at anything or anyone without seeing Christ glorified. A blessed prospect!
It is a happy thing when, as a company of the Lord's children, we can be together for hours on end or even days on end; when we are occupied with the Lord as our one common interest and are all taken up with Him. When we have a time like that and go back into the world, what a different atmosphere we find! How chilled we feel! It is a fine thing to meet the Lord in His children and to be shut up to Him like that; but even then it is only in part. But the eternal day is coming when there will be no going back into the world on a Monday morning after a day in the courts of the Lord; when we shall be touching nothing else but the Lord Jesus, and the whole universe will be full of Him - "Christ all, and in all"! That is God's end. That is what He has determined; all displaying the Lord Jesus; all for Him.
We see much that is not the Lord Jesus in one another now; the day is coming when you will see nothing but the Lord Jesus in me, and I shall see nothing but the Lord Jesus in you; we shall be "conformed to the image of His Son": His moral glory will shine out and be displayed; Christ will be "all, and in all." God has determined it, and what God has determined, He will have. This, then, is the explanation of the creation, that Christ may be all, and in all, and among all have the pre-eminence.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul has a very remarkable statement in this connection:
"For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him Who subjected it, in hope, that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.", (8:19-22).
Note what this really says and implies. The creation is possessed by an earnest expectation. This expectation is with groaning as in travail, an expectation of hope - not of the dissolution of the universe, of which certain scientists say so much. Nevertheless the hope and the groaning hereunto are deliberately put under a reign of vanity - made to be all in vain - until a fixed time and goal. That climax is in two parts: one, the revealing of the sons of God; the other - linked therewith - the deliverance of the creation from the enslavement to corruption.
All this is taken back to eternity past and linked with the Lord Jesus as the Son: "For whom He did foreknow, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren.", (Rom. 8:29).
In the former passage there is a definite statement and a clear implication. The statement is that the creation was subjected to vanity, and its state is the bondage of corruption. The implication clearly is that there was a definite time when, because of its corruption, the whole creation was brought into a condition in which it was caused to groan and travail unto an end that could not be reached. It is in that connection that there is given room for the whole range and nature of the Satanic interference with the creation with a view to challenging the ultimate Divine purpose m the creation and to frustrating it by bringing in corruption. So universal was that corruption that a sentence of vanity was pronounced upon "the whole creation". The effect of this was, and is, that the creation can never realize the object of its being, save on the ground of holiness and Divine likeness.
Here there comes in also the whole range of "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus "; the universal work which He accomplished by His Cross in the destruction of the work of the Devil, and, potentially, of the Devil himself; with all the sin-destroying and corruption-destroying power of His sinless nature and life, the efficacy of His incorruptible Blood, and the providing of justification and sanctification for all who believe, these by regeneration becoming "a new creation in Christ Jesus.", (1 Cor. 5:17).
By this means alone can the creation be delivered. When these sons of God are manifested - their number complete - and all who have refused this salvation are dismissed from God's realm, then shall the creation be delivered and its original intention be realized, Christ being all, and in all.
2. The Explanation Of Man
Then, in the next place, as a central part of the creation, we have man. What is the explanation of man? What is the explanation of Adam as the first man? There is one little passage of Scripture which answers that. "Adam... who is a figure of Him that was to come", that is, Christ (Rom. 5: 14). A figure of Him that was to come; that is the explanation of man. God intended that every man entering this world should be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Multitudes will miss it, but there will be multitudes such as no man can number, out of every tribe and kindred and nation and tongue, who will realize it. What a high calling! What a different conception of man that is from that which is popularly held, and what a thing to be missed! And yet there are many who say complainingly that if they had had their way they would never have come into this world. There have been those who, in an hour of eclipse, cursed the day that they saw the light. Ah, but something has gone wrong there; that is not how the Lord meant it to be, and however much we may have blue days, when we wonder whether really it is worthwhile after all, let us come back to God's thought in our very being. It is our tremendous privilege, the highest honour that could ever have been conferred upon us from the Divine standpoint, that we should have been born.
We do not always feel or speak like that, but we are constantly compelled to bring ourselves back to God's point of view about this and to remember that His purpose is to have a universe peopled with such as are conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, a people who are a universal manifestation of Christ glorified with the glory of the Father. That is a privilege, an honour, something to be born for! That is the explanation of man.
We can only touch many of these matters lightly, and pass on.
3. The Explanation Of Redemption
Further, this word, "Christ is all, and in all", is the explanation of redemption. Things of course went wrong: God's purpose was interfered with. It could never be finally thwarted, but there was another who did determine that, so far as it was in his power, that universal display of Jesus Christ - that 'all-in-all-ness' of the Lord Jesus - should never be; one who desired to have that for himself - that he should be universal lord of heaven and earth. That interference for a time has made a great deal of difference. It has interfered with man and made him other than God intended him to be. It has spoiled the image.
But there is redemption through the Cross of the Lord Jesus. What is the explanation of the Cross? What is the explanation, on the one hand, of all that atonement, that redemptive work of the Lord Jesus in dealing with sin, and having universal sin laid upon Him, and being made a curse for us, in our place?
And then, on the other hand, as the complement of that, what is the explanation of that Cross being wrought in the believer so that the believer becomes united with Him in the likeness of His death and burial as a spiritual experience? - all that application of Calvary which is so painful, so terrible to pass through: yes, the disintegrating of the "old man", the cutting off of the "body of the flesh", that inward knowledge of the power of the Cross, so terrible to the flesh. What is the explanation? Beloved, it is that Christ may be all, and in all.
Why are we broken? To make room for the Lord Jesus. Why are we brought down to the dust by the Holy Spirit as He works Calvary's death into us? In order that the Lord Jesus may take the place that we in the flesh have occupied. We get wrong sometimes about this application of the Cross. The enemy is always at our elbow to insinuate and suggest the unkindness of God to smash us, to humiliate us, to bring us to nothing, and to say that there is no end to this thing, seeking thus to get us down.
Beloved, the Cross was intended only to make the Lord Jesus all, and in all, for us; and is it not true that, because of the way that the Lord has dealt with us, the way in which He has applied the Cross, planting us into that death and burial, we know Him in a way in which we never knew Him before? Is it not by that way that He has become what He is to us, ever more and more dear to our hearts? The increase of the Lord Jesus in and to us is by the way of the Cross. We know quite well that our chief enemy is ourselves, our flesh. This flesh gives us no rest, no peace, no satisfaction; we have no joy in it. It obsesses, engrosses, constantly struts across our path to rob us of the very joy of living. What is to be done with it? Well, in and by the Cross we are delivered from ourselves; not only from our sins, but from ourselves; and being delivered from ourselves we are delivered into Christ, and Christ becomes far more than we.
It is a painful process, but it is a blessed issue; and those amongst us who may have had the greatest agony along this line would, I believe, testify that what it has brought to us of the knowledge and riches of the Lord Jesus has made all the suffering worth while. So the work of the Lord for us and the work of the Lord in us, by the Cross, is only intended in the Divine thought to make room for the Lord Jesus.
The brazen altar of the Tabernacle, as that of the Temple, was a very big altar. You could get all the other furniture of the whole Tabernacle inside it. Yes, the altar has to be a big one; there has to be a big place for Christ Crucified. He is to fill all things and He is to be the fulness of all things, and there is going to be no room for us in the end. Does that strike you with dismay? Surely not. So the Cross, the work of redemption through that Cross, has for its explanation just this, that Christ may be all, and in all; that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.
This, then, is the explanation of our experiences - why the Lord deals with us as He does; why believers go through the experiences that they do go through; why they go through things that no one else seems called upon to go through; why sometimes they almost envy unbelievers the easy time that so many of them have. This explains the Lord's dealings with Israel in the wilderness. Even after their deliverance from Egypt's bondage and tyranny, there was heart-break and agony. Why this chastening? In the wilderness, they still hark back to Egypt. The work the Lord is doing in them is in order that He may be everything in and to them. If He cuts off their natural supplies, it is only to show what their heavenly supplies are. If He cuts off their natural power, it is that they may come to know the power of the heavens. Whatever He may take them out of or lead them into, is with a view to taking them out of themselves and that He Himself may be all, and in all.
This is the explanation of our difficulties. The Lord knows how best to deal with each one of us, and He does not use standardized methods. He deals with you in one way and with me in another. He knows how to lead us into experiences which are most calculated to bring us to where the Lord is all, and in all.